Detoxing is never a bad idea. As we wave goodbye to holiday overindulgence, detox might be a necessity. In addition to detoxing for general health, it might be essential to ensure you pass an upcoming drug test.
Whether you’re an athlete who must stay clean during the season or a new hire for your dream job, passing that test is imperative. Diet and exercise are the best ways to release toxins.
Your digestive system is the engine that drives you. Sometimes referred to as the “second brain,” your gut is your vitality powerhouse. The digestive process breaks down everything we consume – anything we eat, drink, smoke, or put on our skin – and decides what to get rid of and what to use. The small and large intestines do the bulk of waste removal while the kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin work 24/7 to cleanse and detox your body.
Not all food is created equally. There’s less nutritional value in french fries than in a leafy green salad. Also, oils used in frying any food are typically hard on your liver. Shift your diet to more lean, clean, and nutrient-dense options to help reset your digestive system and metabolism.
Admittedly, cutting out some food and drink is more complicated than others. Cutting out alcohol is a crucial first step. It provides no nutritional benefit and is toxic to your liver. Additionally, alcohol reduces helpful detoxifying minerals magnesium and zinc.
For most Americans, cutting out sugar is the most challenging step. Sugar is found in many foods, beverages, and condiments in one form or another. Sugar is highly addictive and fights good bacteria in your gut. It also helps fungi like candida which slows detox times. Omitting sugar will require diligent reading of food labels. Food companies disguise dry sugar under a host of names:
You might be surprised to find just how much sugar is hiding in your granola, salad dressing, or instant oatmeal.
Anything that has been altered during its production is considered processed food. Although not every processed food is unhealthy, an abundance – baked goods and pastries, cereals, lunch meats, tinned vegetables, and all types of candy, chips, and crackers – contain large amounts of salt, fat, and sugar.
Generations ago, dairy was an easy way to have an abundant supply of protein. Now, it’s not as critical, but it has become embedded in our dietary culture. Dairy is acidic and slows the body’s ability to detoxify. Dairy products from cows treated with hormones like bST (Bovine somatotropin) are especially bad. Still, even organic hormone-free dairy products can cause the body to produce excess mucus, which slows waste removal.
Even if only briefly for your specific detox, vegetarianism brings many benefits. Meat can take as long as two days to digest fully. Their proteins and fats contain complex molecules that take longer for your body to pull apart. There are plenty of easily digestible foods for protein: lentils, beans, asparagus, and Brussel sprouts. Fruits and vegetables can move through your digestive system in less than a day.
The coffee boom of the past 20 years has made cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos a daily ritual for many. Unfortunately, that jolt of energy caffeine provides interferes with your liver’s ability to detoxify and to your central nervous system and digestive tract. Caffeine stimulates peristalsis, which causes your digestive tract to pulsate – the opposite of the desired “rest and digest” effect needed during detox.
Gluten has become an easy punch line, with many people frivolously seeking out gluten-free alternatives. Indeed, those with celiac disease have to avoid gluten all the time. But even those without celiac disease benefit from taking a break from it. Essentially, gluten is an inflammatory food affecting your joints and your bowels. It causes indigestion, bloating, and reduced nutrient absorption.
After studying this daunting list of foods to avoid, the question may arise, “what can I eat?” Simplify. Think of, and shop for, foods that are alive and healthy – beans, fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and gluten-free grains.
Staying well-hydrated helps support your kidney’s ability to flush away toxins. Drink plenty of water and herbal tea to keep your gut healthy and clean so it can eliminate waste more effectively. Exercise supports your metabolism, helps with detoxifying, and keeps your mind off all those food temptations. Therapies like acupuncture, reflexology, or red light therapy – a sauna or steam room – also benefit detoxification.
Even a short-term detox brings benefits – losing that holiday weight, clearer skin. Once you get started, you may become inspired to stick with it and notice additional benefits such as decreased joint pain and less brain fog. Either way, in a few weeks, you’ll be thanking yourself for stepping away from the glass pipe for a while and giving your body time to cleanse. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”